Days of Blood & Starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight - Laini Taylor Spoilery review *flailing squid arms*

Hoo boy. Where do I even start with this book? I'd read Daughter of Smoke and Bone some time before (about eight months ago, perhaps) and while I enjoyed it, some aspects of the book just really rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly, the romance, and how flat I found Akiva.

My general thoughts after reading this book: I cried a bit (very few books/shows/anything can claim that for me), I laughed out loud instead of just having an MSN-esque 'lol' show up in my head, my heart was set racing at certain points because that-can't-be-happening-it's-not-fair, omg-no-way-is-it-really-them, no-no-please-no-I-like-that-guy-please-nooo.

In my opinion, Days of Blood and Starlight is a huge improvement to the first book. It takes those characters and that wonderful, wonderful world that we were set up with in the first book, and moulds them like Play-Doh into something even better than I could've hoped.

I'm gonna start with Akiva, but he was one of my major grievances (and half of the other one, technically) in the first book. He improves in this one. I can't unfortunately say much more than that. I still find him pretty bland – he doesn't really seem to have all that richness to him, not that much to relate to or be interested in. He does an enormous amount of soul-searching and that made him a hell of a lot more interesting for me to read, though. His more introspective nature in this book helped me learn a lot about him as a person – even if I still couldn't relate to him, he was like trying to climb a glass wall while covered in grease – and helped me to understand him a lot better. He's devastated over what he did to the chimaera, and to Karou. He's not naive enough to think that maybe, somewhere deep within her heart, she'll find a kernel of forgiveness and they could still have their Happily Ever After. He isn't that stupid. Instead, he turns his attentions to trying to help the chimaera, the only thing he can do to atone for what he's set in motion. Akiva does what he can, pushing himself while still trying to remain hidden from his own people, despite his hopelessness that no matter what he can do, it'll never be enough. The only thing keeping him at it as that maybe, just maybe, his efforts will mean life instead of death or slavery for some people.

What was more interesting to me was how Hazael and Liraz slowly yet surely turned to his way of thinking. I loved that Liraz had her own POV every now and then, since of the three of them (and possibly of the entire series so far) she's the most closed-off and fierce character. Those little snippits behind her eyes tell us so much about her, her fears and desires that she tries to keep so intensely under wraps. We don't see from Hazael's eyes, which should've set off warning bells, but I think we already saw how much of who he was from everyone else's eyes that we already got a good bead on the kind of person he was. If that makes sense.

Speaking of POVs – were there this many in the first book? I don't remember. It was a little disconcerting at first, but not once did I feel confused about where I was standing. Each POV had a reason to be there and was addressing an issue or a subject that turned out to give us subtle exposition without needing to tell us too much. We simply see the problem or subject, we see how the character in question faces it regardless of whether they show up again or not, and we know a little bit more about the overall story because of it. It was a nice, non-Yoda-ish way to give us information sneakily, although the perspective changes might've been a little confusing or off-putting for some.

I loved Thiago. I am hopelessly defending myself from the waves of rotten fruit that will surely be descending on me any moment now, but hear me out. I fucking hated him – he was emotionally abusive, physically abusive, spiteful, arrogant, false...everything that could be bad about a person, and really driving home the fact that beauty has nothing to do with the skin you're wearing. He was one nasty piece of work, and the fact that he was now the Warlord in the losing side of the war did not sweeten him one little jot. It made him more conniving, more cunning, more sharp-edged. In the end, he really didn't care about the future about the chimaera – he had already given up his own people as a lost cause, and only cared about the wicked, bittersweet self-satisfaction of revenge and causing the enemy pain. Nothing else. I found myself shouting (mentally, of course) along with Karou that none of the fighting, none of the killing would stop until someone stopped first. Thiago, if he had cared anything at all about his own people and not himself, could've been the White Wolf with all of the positive implications that would bring, instead of the White Wolf, and all of those negative idiosyncracies he had brought upon himself in the name of glory. And I loved him for that. No matter how he cared for his people before – if he had at all, and I hazard a guess that he did – he's simply given up on all hope for the future. He cannot see anyway out except death, permanent death. So, why not take out as many angels as possible before then? Why not bite as hard as he could, sinking his teeth into their arms before being taken out back and shot? There was absolutely no way he could ever have brought the battle around in his favour, and yet he kept on biting. There was no way he hadn't known what that would've meant for him and his little band of rebels, but that didn't matter, because they were all dead anyway.

Even though they weren't. With Akiva and his siblings, as well as the Misbegotten in the end, working on the Eretz side of the portal, and Karou slowly turning a scraping handful of the rebels around to her way of thinking, surely they could have accomplished something, together. Akiva himself had already done what others had simply not been able to dream of – killing the emporer, his father. Of course, it opened the way for another, more cunning tyrant to take his place, but that is literally another story. (Come onnnn April)

I noticed something when I was reading DoBaS. Something, at the time, I thought might be important. I was picking up little foreshadowing clues being sprinkled throughout the story, and found my mind leaping forward. “I bet that thing's going to happen, there's a clue there, the most obvious reason is that that thing will happen,” I'd think to myself. The first one was the 'Karou' thurible found in the Kirin caves. Of course, Akiva finds it and nearly has a breakdown thinking that Karou is dead, but clearly she can't be. She's the main protag, she can't just die like that, especially off-screen. That's just unthinkable. So, obviously it was a thurible meant for her to find – and who more likely than Brimstone? We know he died, but we also know that death isn't such a simple matter for the chimaera, and that Brim is both a smart badass and literally the most knowledgable on the subject of resurrection. What if he'd somehow managed to set up thuribles before his shop was burned to the ground? What if her family was safe, trapped in stasis somewhere, but undeniably safe?

There were a couple of other examples of this, but I can't remember what they were. All I remember is being so delightfully surprised when all those little clues leading me to believe one thing turned out to be red herrings. Sort of. Every one of them took what I had thought would happen and twist it just a little, enough to make me see yes, that's entirely possible, that could happen, I expect this, but in reality, it was something only similar to that. Issa being in the thurible, and not Brimstone. Those other ones that I can't remember. It was brilliant. I'm not good at picking up on foreshadowing and even less good at predicting what will happen later in the book (I'll find out sooner or later, I'm reading the damn thing so I don't see the point, and rarely try) but I just couldn't resist nibbling at that bait, and turning out to be wrong – in a twisted, 180 degree axis, spinning-on-your-heel way – in the end. I loved it.

The characters were more rich. They went through a lot of really harsh issues that helped form them into the people we've come to love. Karou herself – always such a strong girl – is beaten and broken enough to relinquish some of that strength, and be disgusted with herself when she realises what's happening. Akiva is basically done with the seraphim's shit and decides to single-handedly try to make the world a better place, no matter how impossible that seems. Ziri was sort of a retcon (was he in the first one? I don't remember), but he was a sweetheart and his reasons for being there made sense. (I bet him and Liraz hook up in the next book. Money's on the table.) Zuzana shows that she's pretty much the best, most awesome goddamn friend ever. Even Mik was pretty cool, in the end. (A male love interest in a YA fantasy story that actually doesn't treat his girlfriend like shit and who sincerely loves – real love, not Twilight love – her to bits? What is this sorcery?!)

I really liked this book. I liked it a lot more than the first one, and I think it's better by leaps and bounds. Daughter of Smoke and Bone might have introduced me to the series, but I'm sticking around thanks to Days of Blood and Starlight.

Anyone else get tired of writing out those crazy long titles?

...also, that basket of fucking fruit. I don't remember the last time something made me laugh so hard I started crying.